(JTA) — Ukrainian Jewish businessman Vadim Rabinovich announced his candidacy for president of Ukraine in the May elections.
Rabinovich, 61, the owner and co-founder of Jewish News One and co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, made the announcement during an interview Tuesday for the Vesti.ua news website and online radio service.
In the interview, which Rabinovich posted on his Facebook page, he said Ukraine should become a neutral nation, with a small professional army based on the Swiss model and a regional administration similar to the German federal system.
“There is no need for 26 areas,” he said in reference to the regions that make up Ukraine.
Rabinovich also called for canceling value added taxes, which he said “turned into a tool for power to feed itself.”
He said transparency in government would encourage investments that would help Ukraine recover economically following months of political turmoil that began in November and worsened an already acute financial crisis.
According to newsradio.com.ua, Rabinovich submitted his candidacy for the May 25 elections at the Central Elections Committee and spoke to reporters outside the building.
“I want to debunk the myth that Ukraine is anti-Semitic, which is being spread throughout the world,” he said, referencing allegations by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the revolution over former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s perceived pro-Russian policies was being led by “anti-Semites and neo-Nazis.”
“I’m probably the best candidate. We need union, and I am the unifying candidate. I have no particular lust for power, I just want to help the country,” Rabinovich said.
Rabinovich, founder of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, told JTA during an interview at his office in October that he became involved in Jewish causes after he turned 40.
“I made a discovery that there is a thing called Torah,” he said. “It led me in all kinds of new directions.”
In the 1980s, Rabinovich was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison for black market ventures, but wound up serving only seven years, according to Korrespondent, a Ukrainian weekly.
Rabinovich says he was jailed on “trumped-up charges,” but the United States still bars his entry as a result, he confirmed to JTA.
Following his release in 1991, Rabinovich began to amass a fortune as a metals dealer. He has donated millions of dollars to Jewish causes, including bringing the Limmud Jewish learning festival to Ukraine.